Video Nasties: Draconian Days aka Video Nasties The Definitive Guide: Part 2 (2014)

Film: I wonder if Jake West realised that his first documentary about banned films, called Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tape, was going to be such an amazing piece of work. I have to say that there is probably only two documentary films series that I really could watch as much as I watch regular cinema, they are these two films, and a Gary Hustwit series of three films called Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanised (a loose series starting with regular things we see every day, but looked at from a design point of view (if you haven’t seen them, give them a watch!))

The first film in this series, reviewed elsewhere on this very site, dealt with the banned films of the so-called ‘video nasty’ era in the UK, whereas this film deals with the fallout; the censorship and movie classification under the direction of the Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), James Ferman.

It’s an interesting look at the pointlessness of having both censorship and classification, as they don’t work together: why have an age related classification of (18) if you are then going to cut it?

It makes no sense.

The reasoning behind it damaging people psychologically wasn’t proven then, and nor is it proven now… and if these films are so bad, why do the censors get to watch them? What makes THEM above us… and why is age a level for censorship? I know immature 50 year olds (I am one) and I’ve observed 20 years old far more mature than me… and hang on, what is maturity anyways?

It also steeps into the specifics of ridiculousness of some decisions. For example, nunchucks and ninja stars were seen as problematic weapons for films, so those films were rejected or edited. This led to cuts made to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.

Yep.

It would seem that Ferman’s rule seemed to become an excuse for him to exert his lost career as a director and re-cut others films. One of his criticisms claims he made ‘censorship by stealth’.

This film features interviews with everyone involved, from ex-BBFC employees, government officials, film-makers, film journalists and so many others that it presents a quite an even discussion about censorship, especially considering some of the interviewees have such varied opinions about what is ‘good’ censorship, and when does it become borderline fascism? There is also a lot of supplementary material from the time that shows how moral panic can lead to dangerous societal results.

This documentary seems to be far more relevant now with the rise of the so-called ‘cancel culture’. Is it right to delete art because it doesn’t stand up to current standards? If we delete prejudice and violence will it change our state of thought or are those things printed on some of our DNA strands?

I’m just a guy who likes movies so don’t look at me for the answers!

All in all it’s a fascinating look at archaic laws, how some politicians who believe themselves to be better educated than you DECIDE what is good for you, and just how quickly power can corrupt anyone.

The image and sound on this disc aren’t great, but it’s just talking heads so the need for hi-def, 1080hp with super duper surround sound probably isn’t needed.

Score: ****

Video: **

Audio: **

Extras: Oh did you want extras? Well, buckle up, sunshine!

Disc 1 has a series of slideshows: the first is a selection of fanzines who traded in illegal video tapes, then we have DPP72 and DPP82 which show the covers of films banned/ almost banned.

This disc also has trailers for The Playgirls and the Vampire, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Night of the Bloody Apes, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Dead of Night, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varitease, Ghost Story, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, Between Your Legs, Cruel Passion, Escort Girls, Some Like It Sexy, Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hit Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise. (Though both Fantasm and Fantasm Comes Again attach to the same trailer, which is a bummer)

There is also a couple of Easter eggs that feature images of programs and passes from various film festivals, and a short film “It’s Just A Movie’.

Disc 2 and 3 have, in total, about 10 hours of trailers (which for length-of-review reasons I won’t list them all) of the Section 3 video nasties, with introductions.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s fascinating and a great supplement to the first documentary, but meanders a little. That hasn’t stopped me from giving it several watches.

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

20 years ago this came out!!

Film: There is no doubt that director Mario Bava is truly the Godfather of Italian cinema. Able to dance between genres like a ballet dancer at breakdance school, he did everything from horror to westerns, from historical to sci-fi proving himself to be a master of cinema.

American International Pictures hit a few home runs with the Bava films Black Sunday and Black Sabbath (as well as some other non-Bava Italian films) and were looking to invest more heavily in the production of films so they could have the rights in the USA. Planet of the Vampires was one such collaboration and is based on the short story, One Night of 21 Hours by Renata Pestriniero, originally published in Interstellar Science Fiction Magazine. The screenplay was adapted by Bava, along with Ib Melchior, Alberto Bevilacqua, Castillo Consulich, Antonio Román, Rafael J. Salvia and Louis M. Hayward.

Angry astronauts attack!

So, do many hands make light work, or did too many cooks spoil the broth?

Planet of the Vampires sees the deep space vessels Argos and Galliot answer a distress call on the planet Aura. As the ships descend into the atmosphere, a high gravity pressure forces the crews into unconsciousness, only finding themselves acting temporarily violently upon awakening.

When the ships land, the only person unaffected by the temporarily is the captain of the Argos, Captain Markary, who, after his crew come to their senses, organise a team to search the strange alien landscape for the Galliot.

The finest in astronautical fashion and equipment!

When they find the Galliot, they discover the entire crew has killed each other and so all are buried, only to come back to life and attack the surviving crew. What is causing the crew to return to life though, and what happened to the gigantic alien race whose crashed spaceship seems to have suffered the same fate…?

Essentially, this is more or less a stock standard sci-fi film of the 50s but with a little bit of blood and gore… I mean, a LITTLE bit… but it’s notoriety comes from the influence it had on films like Alien and Prometheus, and if I may throw a little suggestion in their as well, Event Horizon and Lifeforce, but not to the same extent.

Bava’ s use of studios for the planet’s exteriors make for a bizarre looking alien world that does use his amazing skill of depth of field using lights and forced perspective, and should be included in any film schools education repertoire.

The costuming is a highlight though because it’s out of this world (wink wink)!! The best way to describe the main suits of the astronauts would be… um… ok, imagine if Hugo Boss has designed the SS uniform based on Kiss-Ass’s superhero suit/ wetsuit, but with 70s shirt collars flipped up like a polo on a frat boy. Yep. Nailed it.

Ultimately it’s 50s sci-fi made in the 60s. It’s quaint and it’s fine but I wish I’d watched Alien again instead! Or Lifeforce.

Or Event Horizon.

Hell, even Prometheus!

Score: **1/2

Planet of the Vampires Menu Screen.

Format: I had a weird revelation whilst watching this DVD in that it’s 20 years old.

Yep. This release from MGM’s Midnite Movies brand is 20 years old at the time of this review, and for a DVD that old, it’s 1.85:1 image and mono audio wasn’t too bad. It’s not brilliant, but it was watchable and the audio was clear.

Score: ***

Extras: A trailer, and that’s it.

Score: *

WISIA: Like I said, I wish I’d watched Alien again.

SHOCK! HORROR!

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Film: Truly, in English speaking countries and outside of the fans of horror or cult cinema, the name of director Mario Bava, unjustly seems to be ignored.

Bava was the son of a filmmaker and started as a cinematographer, and was also adept at screenwriting and special effects, but really, as a director is where his talent lies. In his career he directed over almost 40, with genres including horror, fantasy, science fiction and comedy… even a movie based on a comics character (yes, Marvel didn’t do that first OR best), and many directors including Dario Argento, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Lucia Fulci and others claim to have been influenced by his work.

This film, A Bay of Blood, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Ecologia Del Delitto (and many others) tells the tale of a series of murders that take place by the titular Bay.

The worst haircut ever gets it’s due punishment

First, the disabled owner of the bay is found hanging in her house in what was a murder made to look like suicide, but almost immediately, her murderer is also dispatched by a mysterious assailant. These events lead to a series of murders that all appear to be a cover-up for a real estate scam and an inheritance issue that just seem to escalate.

This film is clearly one of the templates for the slasher movies that came ten years later in the eighties: really just a series of gory murders, intercut with some images of boobs/ butts and a barely incoherent story to link it all together.

Not sure about the rest of you, but I don’t really have a problem with that!

Clearly, Sean Cunningham was inspired by this scene

Honestly, the story is REALLY stupid and doesn’t feel at all like any attempt has been made for any type of legitimacy for the story, and it assumes the viewer has NO understanding of how police investigations go. One could never remake this film now as the perpetrators of the film left fingerprints everywhere and even a rock with a slight understanding of forensics would have the ‘mystery’ solved within minutes. Also, so many unnecessary scenes drag on for far too long, and characters whose back stories we really don’t need to know are over-explained to the point of slowing down the story.

I say all that but it the end it is still charming, and the scenes of violence, considering this came out in 1971, are quite shocking and occasionally sophisticated in their execution. Sometimes the victim’s death scenes are just dumb though… for example, Brunhilda is clearly still breathing after her demise… for them not to ring too true, but they are excusable as not much of it feels realistic at all.

Island of Death director Nick Mastorakis said (and I paraphrase) that in making his film that he asked members of his team to come up with a bunch of horrible ways to die, and a bunch of perversions and he wrote a script around those parameters: this feels like it was made similarly.

This film also boasts the worst haircut ever seen in the history of cinema. It’s a pseudo-Afro-mullet that looks like a fake artist tried to flock a motorcycle helmet. It’s both the most horrifying and funniest thing in this film.

Having said all that, this film has a weird endearing honesty about it that makes it a joy to watch, even if the final scene is one of the most ridiculous things you’ll ever see.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow films multiregion Bluray release from 2010. It is presented in a clear, but artefact-filled 1.85:1 image with a fairly decent mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: Oh boy, it’s a smorgasbord of extras on this disc… are smorgasbords Italian? Do I mean tapas? No that’s Spanish… Buffet? Whatever: the point is there’s heaps of extras!

The Italian Version of the Film, with or without subtitles is included in the extras.n

The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti is an interview with the story writer of A Bay of Blood, Sacchetti, and his experiences in the Italian/ giallo film scene, including working with a Bava on this film.

Joe Dante Remembers Twitch of the Death Nerve sees director/ film enthusiast Joe Dante talk about Bava and his reception in America.

Shooting a Spaghetti Classic looks at how A Bay of Blood was shot through the eyes of assistant cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia.

There are also two Trailers from Hell narrated by Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, which are both for A Bay of Blood, but under two of its other names, Carnage and Twitch of the Death Nerve.

Finally there are two radio spots for the film.

Also, the review edition is the Arrow Films release from about 2010 and it has a choice of 4 different covers, a poster and a booklet about the film by Jay Slater.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s kitschy and cute, and gory as hell! It’ll get watched again, for sure!

The Killer Must Kill Again (1975)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Killer Must Kill Again aka L’assassino è Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora (1975)

Film: I love giallo films, and it was with great pleasure that this one, The Killer Must Kill Again, finally crossed my palms. Also known as L’assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora or Il Ragno (The Spider), The Killer Must Kill Again is the second film directed by Luigi Cozzi and was made in 1973, but was initially banned, and did not get an official release until 1975.

Scumbag husband Giogio Mainardi (George Hilton) had decided to leave his bitchy, mistrusting, but rich, wife but gets a better idea when he happens to witness a serial killer (Michael Antoine) dispose of a body. Giorgio blackmails the killer, and for some reason also offers him $20,00, to kill his wife. The Killer executes the plot perfectly, but has fate thrust upon him when the car he is storing the body in the boot of is stolen by a pair of joyriders, Luca (Alessia Orano) and his girlfriend, Laura (What Ever Happened to Solonge’s Christina Galbo) who are travelling to a place called Seagull Rock where Luca intends to deflower Laura.

The Killer steals another car in the street and pursues them cross country. Meanwhile, Giorgio waits with a police investigator who is led to believe that Giogio’s wife has been kidnapped, seeing as how her father is rich, and so they make preparations for a ransom call that has yet to be made. The inspector though, slowly becomes more and more suspicious of Giorgio.

Eventually the Killer catches up with Luca and Laura, but what happens next?

The answer quite possibly lies within the films title…

Cozzi wears his influences on his sleeve with this film. It is a little bit Dario Argento, but with his usual ploy of not revealing the killer until the end turned on its head, and a little Alfred Hitchcock, but much sleazier. Sleazecock perhaps? Several scenes are clearly influences by Hitchcock, such as the Killer pushing a victims car Marion Crane like into a body of water. In actual fact, Michael Antoine looks a little like Anthony Perkins, although maybe more like a DNA splicing of Charles Bronson and Reggie Nalder with Johnny Cash’s wardrobe.

The whole film appears to be made to offset the mind of the viewer. There is a lot of queer scoring and music effects and some some fantastically weird camera work and editing. One wonderful example is the juxtaposition of a rape and some lovemaking that makes for a scene that acts as a sexy/repulsive collage of lust. The script follows some strange paths as well. Even though the ‘kidnapper’ has not made any sort of demands, the inspector suggests that a ransom is put together… but why?

There is a lot to like about this film. It is super cool and somehow extraordinarily scummy at the same time. George Hilton is suitably bastardish, and Michael Antoine’s cavalier sociopath is a perfect example of how to act creepy. You really have to love a film that doesn’t really have a clear ‘good guy’: all the characters are either macho womanizers, bitches, slutty bimbo’s or just plain out frigid.

Simply, I can’t recommend this enough: I loved every second of it.

Score: *****

Format: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation has a few tiny artefacts here and the but nothing to really detract from the viewing experience. For its age this is a splendid transfer. No fancy 5.1 remix here, with The Killer Must Kill Again presented in old school stereo, but it is a decent track. You also have the choice of subtitles Italian or dubbed English.

Score: **

Extras: A nice basket of extras on this disc.

 

There is a thorough commentary track by Cozzi, who is prompted along by interviewer Pete Tombs, author of Mondo Macabro. Cozzi talks about all aspects of the film, and it is entertaining and informative. He discusses the original title – Il Ragno – and where it came from, and generally has great recollections of the films production.

The Road to The Killer is an interview with Cozzi from October 2004 and he talks about his influences and career.

Initials D.A. The Killer has a lighter with the initials D.A. on it, and Cozzi discusses how this is a tribute to Dario Argento, a man whom he seems to respect.

The Giallo Genre is a documentary originally presented on the Region 2 Mondo Macabro release of Death Walks at Midnight. It is narrated by Adrian Smith, author of the giallo book Blood and Black Lace, and is a decent introduction to the world of giallo. I did find an issue with the audio at this point though. Everytime Smith spoke, my sound system accompanied his speech with a dull hum, whether this is present on the disc or was just my equipment, I am not sure.

There is also a theatrical trailer, a blogs and stills galleries, which feature posters and text filmographies, and an original title sequence of the film as it was known as Il Ragno.

In addition, this disc has a collage of film scenes called More from Mondo Macabro, which shows scenes from their other releases, such as Alucarda, The Diabolical Dr. Z, Aswang, Living Corpse, Blood of the Virgins, Seven Women for Satan, Lady Terminator, Crazy Love, Mill of the Stone Women, Dangerous Seductress and Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay Special Edition. The worse thing about this sequence of films was the amount of DVDS I am going to have to purchase over the next few months!

Score: ****

WISIA: With it’s strange vibe, The Killer Must Kill Again is a definite rewatcher.

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

One from the re-watch pile…

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

Film: As I sit here at the To Watch Pile Mansion, in my movie room, I look around and enjoy the fact that one wall is covered in blurays and DVDs, another has my vinyl soundtrack collection, the third is my TV screen and finally a big pile of books all about film, more specifically, horror, cult and sci-fi films. To say that I am a movie fan is a slight understatement: I simply LOVE cinema!

One thing that has always fascinated me was the Video Nasty scare in the UK. I first heard the term ‘video nasty’ as a kid when it was mentioned on an episode of The Young Ones, a hilarious 80s UK comedy series starring Ade Edmondson, Rick Mayall and Nigel Planer.

If you haven’t heard of this show, for me and my friends in high school, it was our Simpsons: funny and infinitely quotable. I don’t necessarily suggest everyone needs to see it as I’m not sure if a new, younger audience would appreciate it.

Anyway, this term fascinated me and I had read about it in everything from magazines like Fangoria, Samhain and Deep Red, but it didn’t seem to be something we experienced here in Australia as I worked in a video shop when I was about 15, and things like Evil Dead, and Lucio Fulci films were readily available to watch, perhaps cut in various ways, but still there to hire.

Anyway, to get the full deal on what the Video Nasty was about, I had to glean information from various sources, but now, this wonderful documentary exists, directed by Jake West, whose name you might know from films such as Doghouse and Evil Aliens.

West has managed to get so many interviews with both sides of the argument that you really get a complete picture of what was going on both socially and politically in the UK at the time, and whilst it does come from a director of horror’s hands, it’s surprisingly balanced, but even the least politically-motivated viewer will see that the hands of oppressive moral majority were heavy and unreasonable, bordering on WW2 book-burning and Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent’s almost destruction of the comics industry in the US.

In addition to the incredibly informative amount of experts giving their opinions and recounting their tales, we also have a bucketload of bloody clips taken from the films in question.

I can’t express how enjoyable and informative this documentary is. It completely recounts the whole period, and even has a sequel: Video Nasties: Draconian Days which looks inside the censorship board in the UK. Both are must-sees for horror movie fans.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK DVD, which runs for 72 minutes approximately. It is presented in a 1.78:1 image of varying degrees of quality (to express points the director has deliberately degraded the film at times to visually explain how repeatedly copies VHS eventually looked) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with similar eff ts performed on it to audibly explain VHS sound. It doesn’t, however, ever become unwatchable or inaudible.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: Extras… EXTRAS? How about two full discs of extras?!?

Disc 1: Video Ident-a-Thon is a selection of the video distribution companies of the time idents played at the beginning of every tape… and there is almost a FULL HOUR of them!

Bonus Gallery has a selection of VHS covers played as a slide show with a soundtrack.

Also available has trailers for other DVDs available from Nucleus films, including The Playgirls and the Vampire, Night of the Bloody Apes, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varietease, Ghost Story, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 1, Death Ship, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, The Ugliest Woman in the World, and Between Your Legs. That’s not to mention trailers for titles from Naughty Films such as Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hot Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise.

Disc 2: This disc has the trailers for 39 videos which became the actual Video Nasties. These trailers can be watched either with or without title cards, showing the release dates and other information, followed by introductions from Emily Booth, Kim Newman, Alan Jones (the UK one, not ‘ours’)and Stephen Thrower, all who were featured in the main documentary.

This disc also has another brief slideshow of the VHS covers of the 39 banned films, again with a score played over the top.

Disc 3: This disc is similar content to disc 2, but instead this has the 33 films that didn’t permanently achieve the Video Nasty status, or as they are called here ‘The Dropped 33’. This again has introductions from subjects from the documentary like Emily Booth, Dr. Patricia MacCormack, Alan Jones, Marc Morris, Allan Bryce, Xavier Mendik, Brad Stevens, Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower.

This disc also has a slideshow similar to disc 2,but of the Dropped 33.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve already watched it a 100 times and I’ll probably watch it a 100 more.

Ratman (1988)

Ratman (1988)

Film: Sometimes, being a B movie fan is like trying to find your wife’s wedding ring after she dropped it in a septic tank: you must wade through a lot of shit to find a gem. Discovering that gem is a treat, but generally you’ll find yourself with a large handful of excrement. Unfortunately, Ratman is not a gem, but instead one of those piles of shit one more than often finds, and not just any piece of excrement either. No, Ratman is a steaming fresh pile of peanut-encrusted beer bog.

Spoiler alert: it’s that bad.

Ratman, also known in Italian as Quella Villa in Fondo al Parco (The Village by the Park? Something like that) was directed by Giuliano Carnimeo, who also directed The Case of the Bloody Iris, and is written by Dardarno Sacchetti who gave us Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetery, along with many other classics of Italian horror. Honestly, I don’t know what either of them was thinking when they made this – and that goes for star David Warbeck as well. Surely times never got that lean!!

Set on a small island, Ratman starts with a professor proudly proclaiming that he should win the Nobel Prize for science after he creates a monster he calls ‘Mousey’ (played by tiny actor Nelson De La Rosa. Seriously, this guy is so small even Verne Troyer could pick on him), a rat/monkey hybrid. The problem with Mousey is that he has also developed poisonous teeth and claws, which will kill a man in no time at all.

Of course, Mousey escapes and starts a half pint reign of terror!

Mousey starts by killing a model, and her sister is called to the island to identify the body. Upon arrival she meets an author, and they soon become chums and visit the morgue together only to find the girl is not her sister, and that her sister has made a trip into the forest on another photo shoot, and the two choose to investigate… but what they find is a trail of death!!!!!

I really can’t stress enough what a piece of crap this film is, and its directorial and writing genealogy, with Sacchetti and Warbeck’s involvement specifically, makes it even more disappointing.

I know that as a B movie fan this is one of those ‘gems’ I am supposed to like, but I just found it to be crap, and barely watchable. Of what I have seen from Shameless so far, I have enjoyed this the least. Only purchase this if you really want a full set of Shameless’s collection. I will say though, that this film has the best tagline ever: “He’s the critter from the shitter”. Pure comedy.

Score: *

Format: In a decent act for such a film, Shameless have presented this in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen, but the image is terrible. Unfortunately, it is foggy and laden with film artefacts, but I guess that heightens the sleaziness of the proceedings, so perhaps that adds atmosphere? I didn’t feel that at all though. The audio is presented in English mono and the best I can say about it is that you can hear what people are saying. It performs the function that is required of it. To give Shameless credit though, they do apologise for the poor audio on David Warbeck’s character at times due to multiple audio sources.

Score: **

Extras: Nothing but trailer for Ratman and other Shameless titles here: The Frightened Woman, My Dear Killer, Baba Yaga, The Black Cat, The New York Ripper and Manhattan Baby. Shameless do offer multiple covers on this disc, which is something I always find to be quite cool, one of which is a funny but poorly executed Jaws piss-take. The other looks to be original video art, which is nice, but not at all relevant. then again, what video art ever was?

Score: **

WISIA: No. just no.

The Beyond (1981)

One from the re watch pile…

The Beyond (1981)

Film: When I was a teen, my first job was manning the counter of a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and let me tell you, I loved that job. Every Sunday I worked from 12 until 4 pm without fail, and I never asked for a day off in the entire time I worked there I would show up at twelve, unwrap my sandwich and stick The Beyond (I think it was a Palace Explosive tape) into the in store player. For that 90 odd minutes, no one was allowed to rent that tape. They could come back after I had finished watching it, but until then, it was verboten (if you are interested, the second feature was always Dawn of the Dead, which they let me keep when the shop closed down, unfortunately, The Beyond had gone missing, so I couldn’t take that as well).

The Beyond is a film by Lucio Fulci, the other Godfather of Gore and was one of the films that was banned in the UK’s ‘video nasty’ witch hunts.

This film is a part of the Fulci’s unofficial zombie trilogy, also known as the Gates of Hell trilogy, which also includes House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, isn’t just the best of these films, but is the best of his career, even though the plot line is confusing and open to the individual’s  interpretation, and at times the effects are somewhat lacking in realism. Unfortunately, the sharpness of the Blu-ray image  is even less forgiving and a few of those effects are even less convincing.

Onto the story…

The Beyond opens in Louisiana in 1927, where a mobs of local townsfolk are making their way to the 7 Doors Hotel, where an artist named Schweik (Antoine Saint-John) is painting a rather disturbing picture that depicts the barren-ness of Hell while a copy of the mysterious Book of Eibon sits close-by. The townsfolk accuse him of witchcraft, which he claims was to keep a gate to Hell that exists within the hotel shut, but the mob ignore his cries, nail him to a wall, and cover him in quicklime.

Many years later, a young women named Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel from her uncle, and almost as soon as she starts work on renovations, the trouble begins. First a painter falls from a scaffolding from which he should never have fallen, and soon after a plumber is butchered in the flooded basement, after which Liza strikes up a friendship with a local doctor, John (David Warbeck). A strange girl Emily (Sarah Fuller aka Cinzia Moreale) warns Liza that the work she is doing on the hotel is dangerous, but Liza chooses to ignore her, even though she is spooked by her words, and the accidents that have happened.  Strange things happen around room 36 as well (get it? 3 x 6…666) which is the room Schweik was dragged from to his death, and Liza thinks she sees both the body of Schweik and the Book of Eibon as well, but once John turns up, it appears to be a fantasy.

More and more deaths occur and it would appear that Liza has accidentally reopened the gate to Hell.  Can Liza find a way to close the Gate… will she even bother?

The fact that the film is so open to the watcher’s interpretation is the main thing I like about The Beyond. Whilst ‘regular’ film goers probably would have trouble with unconvincing special effects and gore, horror fans can (and in my experience, will) talk for hours about the meanings behind the film, and what the actual plotline is! It is dreamlike and nightmarish, and has this feel of a real horror film, one which I think many horror filmmakers no longer attempt to match as perhaps today’s movie goer requires more literal storytelling.

The Beyond has some spectacular gore scenes that may look a little fake but are executed with gusto! In this film Fulci has taken special attention to the face, and it’s parts, and celebrates their destruction in a way that will repulse most, but will inspire a “Cool!” from those who like it.

This film also has a great legacy of Italian and international horror stars: Catriona (Catherine) MacColl who also starred in House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, David Warbeck of The Black Cat and Hunters of the Golden Cobra, Cincia Moreale from Buio Omega and The Stendahl Sydrome, Antoine Saint-John of The Killer Must Kill Again and A Fistful of Dynamite, Giampaolo (sic) Saccarola of Tenebrae and the House By the Cemetery and Veronica Lazar from Inferno and Last Tango in Paris.

Score: *****

Format: Those of you who wander the wild land of the internet will know of the initial problem that scarred this release, that is, the incorrect black and white instead of sepia toned opening. When I purchased this disc, I received one of these flawed copies, but after contacting the people at Arrow Films, I received a corrected version within a week, which considering I am in Australia and they are in the UK, is quite commendable. I should point out that according to Arrow films, this error was on the first batch released, so all subsequent releases should be the sepia version.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 image that’s looks pretty special, especially when you consider the age of the film. Really the only bad thing about this film is that occasionally in some of the darker sequences there is a small amount of film speckling, which is completely excusable. The amazing soundtrack is presented in  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with the options for either an English or Italian mono track for the purists as well. I am not one of those purists so I instead enjoyed the 5.1 only, and found it to be incredible.

Score: *****

Extras: There is HEAPS of extra features on this 2 discer!

Disc 1:

Before the film starts, Cinzia Moreale introduces the film, and her broken English is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Aka Sarah Keller: Cinzia Moreale Remembers The Beyond  is a nice look back by the actress who portrayed Emily in the film. She discusses her career and her work on this film, all with great poise, I must add.

The Beyond Q & A: Cartriona Maccoll is a fairly informative question session with MacColl which took place after a screening of the film. Unfortunately this is marred by two things; the first is the fact that some scrotum in the audience starts to eat a bag of chips, making crinkling noises all through the piece, the second is the fact that the film notes it with a subtitle referring to it. It is noted several times through the piece, and really the annoying bastard only needed to be pointed out once, as I found the subtitle detracted from what MacColl had to say.

There are also two commentaries on this disc. The first is an older commentary found on previous laserdisc and DVD releases by David Warbeck and MacColl, recorded before Warbeck died in 1997. It is a charming and friendly commentary that has some dubious recollections from the two. The second is with Antonella Fulci and hosted by Calum Waddell, which is a fascinating and personal look at Fulci’s work by his daughter.

Disc 2:

Beyond Italy: Louis Fuller And The Seven Doors Of Death is an absolutely brilliant feature which has the president of Aquarius Films, Terry Levene talk about his career in exploitation films, and what was done to sell Italian films to the states. Those interested in the whole 42nd Street/ Grindhouse thing will find this fascinating, and detractors of Quentin Tarantino will appreciate his comments as well.

One Step Beyond: Catriona Maccoll Remembers A Spaghetti Splatter Classic is recollection from MacColl about her time filming The Beyond and her own career. As with all these sorts of ‘complete’ set of extras, some stories do overlap with disc 1’s Q & A and her commentary with Warbeck, but she is so charming it is easily overlooked.

Butcher Baker Zombiemaker: The Living Dead Legacy Of Gianetto De Rossi looks at the work of special effects artist De Rossi through his own eyes. Through a gravel voice that would make Lawrence Tierney sound like Shirley Temple in comparison, he discusses all the joys and woes of pre-CGI splatter filmmaking.

Fulci Flashbacks: Reflections On Italy’s Leading Paura Protagonist is a series of fond (sometimes) recollections of Fulci and his career from his associates and family.

Alternative Pre-Credit Sequence is just that! An alternative opening of the film, but with one of it’s many alternative titles. Interestingly, this one features a full colour version of the sepia opening of the usual release!!

There is also the International Theatrical Trailer.

The extras don’t just stop at what’s on the two discs either, with Arrow presenting the film in a box that contains a choice of four different covers, (The 7 Doors fo Death, the original title of L’aldila (or more correctly, according to the onscreen title ‘…E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L’Aldila’ translated as ‘..And thou shalt live in terror! The Afterlife’.) or even Die Geisterstadt der Zombies (in English ‘The Ghost-town of the Zombies’), along with a two sided poster and a booklet with two articles by English horror journalist Calem Waddell and an introduction to The Beyond by Cabin Fever director, Eli Roth.

Since this edition was released, and pictured above, there has also been a steelbook version of the film with some amazing new art!

Score: *****

WISIA: I flat out love this film, it was a favourite when I was a kid, I loved it when I first grabbed it on DVD, and this BD version makes me simply burst with excitement. Arrow films have created a master film disc that is a suburb addition to any Blu-ray collection. Grab it now!

Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

In 1929, Italian publishing company Mondadori started publishing a series of crime books that had garish yellow covers. It is from here that the Italian thriller/ horror film gets its name: giallo, the Italian word for yellow. The films from the early sixties started as adaptation of these early thrillers, but eventually became a genre of their own. The main characteristics of the giallo film take elements from detective stories and slasher films, with operatic elements and a large dose of blood, gore, violence and nudity. While many films from Italian directors can come under the ‘giallo’ title, the masters are truly Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dario Argento, son of producer Salvatore Argento, began his career as a writer for a film journal, before heading into screen writing. He worked for Sergio Leone on such films as Once Upon Time in the West before heading into his own movies, thrillers that kept in mind his childhood love of Italian folk lore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, but most of all, the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Argento is responsible for some of the greatest horror films ever: Deep Red, Suspiria, and this one -Tenebrae.

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has come to Rome to promote his latest novel, titled Tenebrae. His arrival is marred, however, by a series of killings that copy those in his novel. The police, Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carols Stagnaro) are frustrated by the murderer, who is directly referencing Neal by leaving pages from his novel at the crime scenes.

Anthony Franciosa asks Daria Niccolodi how one can star in more Argento films.

Neal, along with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), his assistant, Anne (Daria Niccolodi)and his other employees begin their own investigation to uncover the identity of the killer…but what Neal doesn’t realise is that someone, an ex-lover, Jane (Veronica Lario) is in pursuit of him, but what is HER connections to killing? Does she even HAVE a connection?

John Saxon – legend.

Tenebrae is the film that saw Argento return to traditional giallo after his sojourn into the supernatural with his previous two films Suspiria and Inferno, two chapters of his so called (and as of early 2006 unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and then right back into it with his next film Phenomena. With its rich exterior shots of some exquisite Italian locations, and an unusually bright palette for a horror film…a lot of the murders take place in broad daylight, Tenebrae is a pleasure to watch. Some really great performances by the actors, and some great bloody effects, particularly a brilliant axe murder.

I must admit that Tenebrae is one of those ‘perfect storm’ horror movies for me. My favourite director, an interesting story, a great soundtrack, a big dash of violence, John Saxon and beautiful Italian women. I honestly think there is only one horror film that is better than this one and that is Re-animator.

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video multi-region Bluray release from 2011, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. It is presented in a grainy, but clear 1.85:1 and a good mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some amazing extras on this disc, but you’d expect nothing less from Arrow! Before the disc, though, the package contains four options for the cover of the disc, a poster of the new disc art and a booklet about the film written by Alan Jones.

There are two commentaries on this disc, both which are super interesting. The first is with horror journalism legends Kim Newman and Alan Jones, and the other is with screenwriter Thomas Rostock.

Screaming Queen! Daria Niccolodi Remembers Tenebrae is an interesting interview where she talks about her character in this film, and her history in cinema and with Argento.

The Unsane World Of Tenebrae: An Interview With Dario Argento where he talks about his career and Tenebrae.

A composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae sees the lead player in the band Goblin and composer (as well as hero of mine) Claudio Simonetti discuss his work on this film and his career.

Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches is footage from 2011 of Claudio Simonetti and New Goblin playing live. I admit I caught them in Sydney in 2015 so seeing this brought back fond memories.

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: Tenebrae is one of my favourite films of all time so it gets regularly rewatched, and it should be by you, too!

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.

Baron Blood aka Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimburga (1972)

One from the re watch pile…

Baron Blood aka Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimburga (1972)

Film: I have to preface this review with a short story that I have told to many people, but it particularly refers to this film and my affection for it. You see, Baron Blood was probably the last film to really scare me… not because the film is particularly scary, but instead because of the situation that I found myself in after it.

As a early teenager, I was lucky enough to see this at a little independent cinema known as the Miranda Forum, in Miranda, NSW. The forum did stacks of double features and I was lucky enough to see this film, under the guise of The Torture Chamber Of Baron Blood with another horror film you MAY have heard of called An American Werewolf in London.

The experience of seeing the films was amazing, and after it finished it, my friends were all picked up by their parents and it left me to walk the 5km trip home alone, at about midnight, during a blackout that was effecting the street lights.

Sufficed to say, I ran like a rat up a drainpipe.

Due to this, Baron Blood sits in my brain as a particularly scary film… and let’s just say that the blonde-haired and green-eyed appearance of Elle Sommer set a stamp in my mind that would be permanent, and I have always been mainly attracted to that type.

Much later, after becoming a fan of the work of Mario Bava, whom I discovered through my love of Dario Argento’s body of work, I realised this was in actual fact a Bava film, from a script written by him, Willibard Eser and Vincent Fotre. Even at such a young age I must have instinctively been able to spot great talent!

Anyhow, Baron Blood tells of Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora), a young man who has travelled to Austria to see his family’s castle and there he meets the sexy… I’m not sure what she does actually… Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer) and the two of them have an instant attraction.

Peter convinces Eva, as a joke, to perform a ritual that he found written on a parchment discovered at a relatives house to see what happens, and unfortunately for them, and the many victims, it brings the evil legendary Baron Otto Von Kleist (Joseph Cotton) back from the dead, ready to reclaim his castle and murder everyone who gets in his way!

During the ritual, the ceremonial winds… you know the ones, every GOOD evil ritual has them… blows the parchment into the fire, the parchment containing the words to reverse the spell! Without that information, how will our lovestruck heroes survive?

Mario Bava is well known as one of the greatest Italian filmmakers ever, and he has an incredible fluid style with occasionally an almost cartoonish palette which creates a greater sense of depth within his images. His usual extreme colors aren’t present in this film, but it’s a beautiful film nevertheless, and a great example of modern gothic.

The film has a great cast too. Joseph Cotten from The Third Man, Massimo Girotti from Last Tango in Paris, Antonio Cantafora from Demons 2, Elke Sommer from A Shot in the Dark and even Nicoletta Elmi, an child actress seen in many Italian horror films, from Bay of Blood, to The Night Child and Demons.

This film is a particular interesting piece of Bava’s history too as it isn’t filmed in his native Italy, and instead in Vienna. This is interesting as Bava notoriously hated to travel and rarely filmed away from home.

It may be for strange reasons but I love this film, it’s easily one of my favourite Bava films and is well worth a watch, even if you don’t have to walk home in the dark after seeing it.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was on Arrow Video’s Region B Bluray/ DVD combo pack. The film, on the Bluray, is presented with a 1.78:1 image with a 2.0 Mono and both are fine considering the age of the film and the restoration has brought it back beautifully.

Score: ****

Extras: Oh, boy do we have some extras.

First, there are actually three different versions of the film available to watch on the disc: the ‘export version’, the AIP version and the original Italian version, aka The Horror Of Nuremberg Castle. Being able to watch the film in these three different formats is quite interesting, even though the story doesn’t change. Bare in mind though, the American International Pictures (AIP) version has had a solid 7 minutes cut from it and has a far less interesting musical track accompanying (it’s not bad, just a little horror-movie generic). The entire contents of the Bluray are also presented on two accompanying DVDs as well!

There is an audio commentary by Tim Lucas, the author of Mario Bava: All The Colors of The Dark (a seriously detailed look at Mario Bava’s history) and Video Watchdog editor, which really dissects the film both in its actual story, its place in Bava’s filmography and in Italian cinema in general. This is on the export version of the film.

Introduction by Alan Jones sees respected UK movie expert Alan Jones (not the Australian one) briefly introduce the film and its history.

There are both English and Italian trailers for the film, and some radio spots too.

Bava at Work is a series of photos of Bava making a bunch of different films. There is some interesting shots, but stills belong either in books, or in moonshiner’s backyards.

Ruggero Deodato Interview is a look at the golden age of Italian horror through the eyes of Cannibal Holocaust director Deodato. He has some amusing anecdotes and recollections of Bava and the period.

Also in this package is a booklet with an essay by film critic James Oliver, and details of the restoration process as well. The booklet is illustrated throughout.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a permanent nostalgic favourite so it gets a lot of respins at the To Watch Pile Estate.

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

One from the re watch pile…

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Film: As regular reading of the To Watch Pile may guess, I much prefer a more human villain in my movies than a supernatural one, mainly because I actually don’t believe in ghosts and ghouls and all that sort of stuff. I admit I do like zombie films, but there is a human horror to them with the loss of identity I suppose.

Anyway, cannibal films are are staple of the human horror film, and for me, and probably a lot of other horror film fans, the Hungry Trinity would be Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and this film, Antonio Margheriti’s Apocalypse Domani, aka Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, aka Virus aka Cannibal Apocalypse. Margheriti, also known as the director of Yor: Hunter from the Future directed this film under his alias Anthony M. Dawson from a script co-written by him and Jimmy Gould aka Dardano Sacchetti, who is probably best known for 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

Cannibal Holocaust tells of Viet Nam vet Hopper (John Saxon) who is contacted by a buddy from the war, Charlie Bukowski (John Morgan aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice) who is suffering quite badly from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which reminds him of acts of cannibalism he committed in a POW camp.

Charlie has attacked a young lady in a cinema and begs Hopper to get him out of town, but it would appear that Charlie’s acts of cannibalism aren’t a learnt trait, but instead appear to be some kind of transmittable disease which causes others to have a lust for human flesh.

Will Hopper successfully get Charlie out of the city, or will their needs outweigh their survival…

I first saw this movie on VHS in the eighties when I worked at a video shop in Sydney as a kid and fell in love with it. Along with The Never Dead (aka Phantasm), Dawn of the Dead, Re-Animator and The Beyond, it was one of my most regularly watched horror films. I like those other cannibal films I mentioned earlier, but I think because I saw this film first it set a standard that the others don’t reach.

… and it’s got John Saxon and John Morghen in it, for goodness’ sake: how could a Viet Nam vey Cannibal film get any better than that?!?

Score: ****1/2

Format: This Umbrella Entertainment NTSC DVD release of the film runs for approximately 93 minutes and is presented in an average 1.77:1 image with a functional mono audio track.

Score: **

Extras: There’s a mixed bag of extras on this disc.

Apocalypse in the Streets is a revisit of the exterior locations of the film told in a stiles and honestly not very well edited way. It is however interesting to see that some of the locations still look the same so many years later.

There is a European and a Japanese trailer for the film.

Alternate US Opening Sequence is just what the name suggests, but the one intact with the film is far better and uses less stock footage from Viet Nam.

Poster and Stills Gallery is a selection of posters and promotional material material from the film and a bunch of behind the scenes pics.

The Butchering of Cannibal Apocalypse Essay discusses the editing of the film in its various releases throughout the world.

Score: ***

WISIA: It is my favourite Cannibal film so of COURSE it’ll get looked at again and again!